The Freemen-on-the-Land movement is back in Alberta courts and the spectre of OPCA (Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument) litigants has once more raised its head. On February 27, Justice Tilleman of the Court of Queen’s Bench in Lethbridge handed down Fearn v Canada Customs, 2014 ABQB 114, one of the most comprehensive decisions regarding OPCA litigation since Meads and ANB v Hancock (both of which I have previously written about).

On October 11, 2013, Glenn Winningham Fearn, an American Freeman, attempted to cross the Canadian border. An incident occurred between Fearn and the Canadian Border Services Agency, resulting in Fearn’s arrest and a weapons charge. The charges were heard in Provincial Court on March 3-6, but the decision has not yet been released. When released, that case will provide an interesting decision regarding how OPCA ideas operate in the Canadian criminal law context. The Fearn civil case is concomitant with the criminal trial – as much as any OPCA case can be.

Fearn brought an application to Queen’s Bench seeking to halt the Provincial Court proceedings through several different remedies (or different terms for the same remedy) largely based on stays or orders of non-suit or prohibition. The grounds for this application were set out in a document titled “Notice of Objection and Non-Consent to your Roman Civil Law by Affidavit.” The grounds were that he had previously filed a lawsuit in 2010 challenging the jurisdiction of Canada Customs to inspect individuals crossing the border, that Canada Customs had him listed as “armed and dangerous” in their system as an act of revenge, and that Canada Customs had done nothing to prove their “Roman Civil Law Statutory jurisdiction, except bring out their guns, and assault [him], and kidnap [him], and falsely imprison [him].”

Fearn’s oral arguments included challenging Provincial Court’s jurisdiction, claiming certain legislation was “pretend legislation,” and that the Alberta Court of Appeal “sold their justice” on one of his prior suits in Alberta (Fearn has previously filed three OPCA suits in Canada, and seventeen OPCA actions in the United States). More worryingly, he also argued for the ability to use lethal force against Customs Officers if they arrest him in a way he deems unlawful.

Justice Tilleman rejected Fearn’s application on three grounds:

  1. The application offended the rule against collateral attack,
  2. The alleged range of defects to Crown and court authority are legally incorrect, and
  3. Fearn’s application is frivolous and vexatious.

The Court held that Fearn’s attempt to halt the Provincial Court case through an application was a violation of the rule against collateral attack. If Fearn is displeased with the eventual result of the criminal trial, Fearn may then appeal the case. Queen’s Bench was the wrong forum for this matter.

Fearn’s arguments against the Crown and court authority are a textbook case of the garbled nature of OPCA litigation. As Justice Tilleman wrote:

[34] Beyond offending the rule against collateral attack with his premature application, Mr. Fearn is wrong on a great many specific points. His allegations, argument, and materials appear to in many instances entwine incompatible perspectives, archaic, obsolete, or foreign legal authorities, and are a distorted and an exaggerated image of the law. He is incorrect in his legal history, legal principle, and legal procedure.

The judge then proceeds to meticulously unpick all of Fearn’s OPCA arguments, with counterarguments of relevant Canadian law. At dozens of paragraphs, the analysis far too lengthy to reprint, but it is a recommended read for anyone who may encounter OPCA litigation in the future. Justice Tilleman restates in his analysis of the frivolous and vexatious nature of Fearn’s argument, “all OPCA schemes are invalid, and as a consequence inherently frivolous and vexatious (Meads, paras 554-556, 582-585).”

The Fearn case builds on previous anti-OPCA cases, but adds a new dimension aimed at OPCA “gurus” – those who sell and provide OPCA materials and training. Justice Tilleman calls them the “Typhoid Marys” of OPCA litigation, while Justice Rooke in the Meads decision preferred the term “parasites who must be stopped.” In Meads, it was ruled that an OPCA guru should never be permitted to represent a litigant in court. The Fearn case takes this further with the ruling that direct participation by an OPCA guru in court may be used as a basis for a finding of contempt.

As the trend of OPCA litigation and the spread of the Freemen-on-the-Land movement continues in Canada and the United States, courts must remain vigilant towards vexatious OPCA cases and their drain on court resources. However, judges must still be careful not to turn away a potentially legally relevant case just because the litigant has been seduced into the Freeman ideology. Police, border agents, and the public at large must be better educated about the dangers of Freemen; as both the Fearn case and Freemen-perpetrated shootings in the United States highlight the danger of weapon possession in the hands of someone who does not recognize even the basic authority of the legal system and believes the use of lethal force is justified to support their ideology.